Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Conrad Black: My Life in the Slammer

Via Vanity Fair.

“The myth is that the price war put so much pressure on our profits that I was forced to steal money to maintain my opulent lifestyle,” Conrad Black tells Vanity Fair’s Bryan Burrough. “It’s part of the whole News Corp. mythmaking apparatus,” he explains. “It was Rupert, you know. He originated that one. He certainly parroted it. Rupert always says reasonably nice things about me, but then he throws in something like that for effect. I don’t really blame Rupert. He’s not a non-friend. Rupert is just Darwinian.”

Black opens up to Burrough about every aspect of his experience in jail at Coleman Federal Correction Complex where he served for over two years and where he is likely to return this fall. “I’m not embarrassed in the least bit I was in prison—not the slightest,” he says. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. You can’t talk to Martha Stewart about it, or Alfred Taubman. They didn’t see it as I did, as a nightmarish change in careers. I see it as a temporary vocation.”

“I quickly developed alliances with the Mafia people,” Black says, “then the Cubans. I was friendly with the ‘good ol’ boys’ and the African-Americans. They all understood I had fought the system, and I do believe I earned their respect for that. Everyone got along,” he says, “except with the child-molesters. There was the occasional scuffle there, I heard.” He recalls the welcome he received from a senior member of the Genovese crime family: “No one will bother you here. If you catch a cold, we will find out who you got it from. You know, we have much in common .… We are industrialists.”
“The myth, in all the Canadian papers, was that I would not hold up in prison, that I would be physically and sexually abused …. I realized, well, it would be a little tedious, but it wouldn’t be difficult to endure.” He recalls the indignities of anal inspections, telling Burrough: “[I] was slightly mystified at the extent of official curiosity about that generally unremitting aperture.” He describes cleaning prison shower stalls, a form of punishment at Coleman: “It wasn’t terribly exciting work. You just put soap on the wall and focus a hose on it. There was a social component to it, however. All of these guards from all over coming into the shower to watch this millionaire clean the shower. I said, ‘Captain, I get the sense you are watching the Super Bowl here, that this is a spectator sport. I assure you, this is nothing so entertaining.’


  1. Yes, it was following the Conrad Black case (I am Canadian) that really opened my eyes to the appallingly predatory and callous nature of the US "justice" system. There was no evidence whatsoever of any concern for what a sane person might consider to be justice. Conrad Black's imminent book should be well worth reading.

    Interestingly, for those who have some background or interest in antitrust and free market economics, the oft-worshipped Posner sat on the appellate court and, let's just say, appeared not to cover himself in glory. See:

  2. I must say that Conrad Black's attitude deserves the greatest respect, whatever you think of his previous history.

    Few people could talk about such vile experiences with composure, let alone good humor.

  3. This sounds similar to G Gordon Liddy's stories. Anyone ever read his book "Will" about prison experiences? Very entertaining.